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February 2021: Ice Skating on the Canals of Amsterdam

The thaw has set in, and whatever ice remains on the canals of Amsterdam is now unsafe.

Most likely the ice skates won’t come out of storage again this year.

Snow storm Darcy

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Dam square, with the Royal Palace and the WWII memorial, in the night after snow storm Darcy. Nobody in sight, not just due to freezing temperatures, but also because there is a COVID-related 9 pm through 4:30 am curfew in force.

Update, February 15, 2021: Thaw

It’s over. The thaw has well and truly set in, and whatever ice remains in the canals (and on most lakes and ponds) is unsafe.

We’ll round off this Amsterdam Ice Skating report for 2021 with an impromptu performance by top figure skater Linden van Bemmel:

Figure skater Linden van Bemmel on Prinsengracht. Filmed by Thomas Schlijper.

Update, February 14, 2021

On some canals the ice is thick enough to support multiple ice skaters. On Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht, for instance, a fair number of people have ventured onto the ice.

However, in many places the ice is too thin. And on Prinsengracht several people fell through the ice today:

Six ice skaters saved from a hole in the ice on Prinsengracht.

In addition, the thaw has set in. Forecasters do not foresee freezing temperatures during the rest of the week.

Update, February 13, 2021

The ice on most of Amsterdam’s canals is not thick enough to support lots of people.

The ice in the Amsterdam canals is in a much worse condition than in other places, says Rico Schröder of weather forecaster Weeronline.

But some people take to the canals anyway, such as on the Prinsengracht:

On the same canal bystanders helped a woman out of a hole in the ice:

It is much safer to skate on the natural ice of lakes and ponds in and around Amsterdam.

Police officers are around as well — ostensibly to ensure that people observe the 1.5 meter (5 feet) social distance COVID-19 rule.

Update, February 12, 2021

It is not at all sure that the ice on the canals of Amsterdam will be thick enough by the weekend to welcome lots of skaters.

The temperature will remain below zero (32° Fahrenheit) until Sunday morning. However, by Sunday afternoon a thaw will set in.

The situation will differ per canal: the ice on some will be thicker than on others. That depends on, among other things, whether or not a canal receives more or less sunshine.

However, there are many places in the city where people are already taking to the ice. Frozen ponds and brooks in parks are popular.

Amsterdam TV station AT5 notes there are plenty of skaters on the Bosbaan. That is a rowing course in the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) in Amstelveen.

Amstelveen is a municipality in the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam. It is located just south of Amsterdam.

Mind you, the Amstel, Gooi and Vecht water board says that despite the severe frost, the ice is not reliable in all places. If you do plan to skate be very careful. And just in case you do break through the ice, bring a towel and an extra set of clothes. In addition, carry a long, strong rope while skating.

Skate in your own neighborhood!

The City of Amsterdam calls on Amsterdammers to go skating in their own neighborhood, rather than venture across town. After all, we’re still dealing with COVID-19 restrictions. Locations that attract too many skaters will be closed off, the City says.

Update, February 11, 2021

It’s still freezing out there — about -10° Celsius (14° Fahrenheit) during the night. That means the chance remains high that we will soon be able to skate on the canals.

By the weekend the ice should be about 10 centimeters (3.93 inches) thick, says Jaco van Wezel, spokesman for Weeronline (Weather online). “That’s enough to carry a number of people.”

Other forecasters caution that the chance that the extreme cold will end after the weekend is increasing. There’s a high chance (75%) of thaw setting in after the weekend. Even so, would take a while before snow and ice disappear, because it will likely continue to freeze during the nights.

Right now, even the biggest daredevils do not dare to venture onto the wafer-thin layer of ice.

Ice breaker idiot

Unfortunately this morning a man decided to sail his boat through the ice forming on the Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht:

The shipper has been fined 250 euro.

Amsterdam, February 8, 2021 — Amsterdammers woke up on Sunday to more snow than the city has seen in years. Snow storm Darcy blanketed most of the country. High winds created snow dunes and unsafe driving conditions, leading the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) to issue a Code red warning. 1

Amsterdam did not receive quite as much snow as had been predicted, but there was more than enough for sledding, snowball fights, and even cross country skiing.

Snowball fight with the police

Photographer Thomas Schlijper, who chronicles Amsterdam on his daily photo blog, captured this nice scene on Dam square. About half an hour after the 9 pm – 4:30 am COVID-19 curfew ended, police and passers-by engaged in an impromptu snowball fight:

Amsterdam in the snow looks even better than it normally does.

City Chronicler Thomas Schlijper captured the snow in Amsterdam in September 2017

Will we be able to ice skate on Amsterdam’s canals?

But there’s more: the last time Amsterdammers were able to skate on natural ice in the canals of Amsterdam was in 2018. The time before that? 2012. Now it looks like the canals will once again freeze over.

The weather forecast calls for at least a week of below zero — 0° Celsius (32° Fahrenheit) — temperatures.

For this reason, the Eenhoornsluis (sluis = lock) at the Korte Prinsengracht was closed at 4 pm last Saturday.

Closing the lock cuts the flow of water in the nearby Brouwersgracht and Prinsengracht, which will allow ice to form.

Ice Bill: Sailing ban to promote ice growth

At the same time the so-called IJSnota (Ice Bill) went into effect. This ‘ice protocol’ enables the City of Amsterdam to set in motion various processes that may eventually make it possible for people to skate the canals.

One provision of this bill is a temporary ban on sailing through these canals so that ships do not break up the ice. If the freezing weather continues the sailing ban will be extended to include more canals throughout the city.

From Monday, the conditions are ideal for the rapid growth of natural ice. Forecasters says it is quite possible that there will be ice skating on the Amsterdam canals as early as next weekend.

Forecasters says it is quite possible that there will be ice skating on the canals of Amsterdam as early as the weekend of February 13.

Here’s what that looks like:

Ice skating on Prinsengracht in March, 2018. By the way, the church is the Westerkerk, the bells of which Anne Frank said she heard from inside the hiding place.

This article was first published on Friday, February 5, 2021 – 1:25 PM CET.
It was updated on February, 7, 2021 – 7:22 PM CET to note the increasing certainty of ice skating on the canals.
The Wednesday, February 10, 2021 – 3:49 PM CET update added comments by weather forecaster Jaco van Wezel.
Thursday, February 11, 2021 – 11:04 AM CET we mentioned the upcoming thaw. We also noted that a selfish person sailed his boat through the thin ice.
Friday, February 12, 2021 – 8:54 AM CET update added information about the Bosbaan, and the fact that in many places the ice still is not thick enough.

Share the snow and ice skating fun:

More about Amsterdam:

Not that you’d want to when there’s snow on the ground and ice in the canals but come summer you’ll want to swim in Amsterdam, right?

There are surprisingly few live Amsterdam webcams. We show you the most popular ones. And we’ve included a webcam livestream showing the working windmills at nearby Zaanse Schans

Notes:

  1. Code Red: This is a weather alert where extreme weather has a major impact on society. The weather situation can cause so much damage, injury and nuisance that it can be disruptive to society. This can be very local. Code red is issued at the earliest 12 hours before the weather phenomenon occurs. Code red can also be issued if there is a small chance of an extreme weather situation, but the security risks are great.